Friday, 28 December 2012
Wednesday, 19 December 2012
Football as a sport has been around for generations, the majority of fans follow teams in the professional leagues, but the "non-league" set up below has been slowly developing teams & players for all that time.
For the past 3 years my interest and involvement in non-league has grown immeasurably and with that I've been able to see first hand how the sport at this level has grown in popularity across the country. I also appreciate the set-up of non-league, it's differences to the pro game and the effort, drive & passion that goes into it at this level. When i first saw non-league games as a young child, it was just football, it was all the same to me, but I realise & appreciate that it's not.
That's no bad thing, don't get me wrong! But the way I see it in my head is almost as a different sport to the top flights, and i follow Concord Rangers with as much emotion & passion as i do West Ham.
Basically non-league football is the game in leagues outside the four top divisions in the English game, from the Blue Square Bet Premier, then through various regional divisions 3, 4 or even 5 steps further down. The popularity of these leagues, and the games within them, seems to be increasing quicker by the month, and for me i feel it's because of a couple of main reasons.
The first is exposure, quite simply the game at this level is getting so much more coverage in the mainstream media, for example local papers feature large double page spreads to the number of teams in their areas. Social media has also played a part in this, look for 5 minutes on Facebook or Twitter and you'll find fan pages & accounts dedicated to these clubs, all full of passionate supporters willing to follow their club! Not just social media, but blogs such as this one, the UnderTheLeague.com website, and plenty more besides offer thoughts, opinions and coverage of the game. Add to that the ever faithful Non League Paper and you see how the exposure continues to grow.
The success of non-league teams in national cup competitions also plays a big part in how the game is seen. The FA Cup can offer very small clubs the chance to make it to a big stage, none more recent than Ryman League team Hastings having an away match against Middlesborough in the 3rd round! These smaller clubs are getting better investment, even in this tough climate, as entry prices are lower more fans attend, which boosts the funds at the club & in turn helps them move forward. The playing talent at this level is always improving too, former league players who just missed out can be found across the country plying their trade at this level, competition for places increases because of it.
Of course, one huge reason why the focus on non league has increased was with the creation of "Non League Day" a few years back. Normally a day during October when the top flight are on an international break, this is a day where the focus is on going to see and cheer on your local non-league team. The day is widely promoted & has grown more and more each year. Obviously there's massive benefits to seeing these local games, cost is one, atmosphere is another, being able to stand there with a beer right on the sideline is something that can be enjoyed at this level! Add to that the fact that although the players are paid (not much at all) they are there for the love of the game, and it's there for all to see at every game.
I am a convert, without doubt, the past 3 years have helped make an unbreakable bond with the sport at this level. It's something i love being a part of, and with how things are going I know i will not be the only one!
Wednesday, 21 November 2012
Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Monday, 24 September 2012
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
The NFL season is now two weeks old, so in time honoured tradition i thought it was about time i put my oar in and talk about what I've seen so far around the league. The early weeks are always tough to call as teams are still fresh, not always tight as a unit & the rookies are making their first NFL starts/appearances. Bearing that in mind i think I've personally learned a few things from these two weeks.
First up, my New York Jets are both better and worse than they were in preseason (which to be honest was diabolical). Week 1 the Jets came out and pretty much demolished the Buffalo Bills before the first half was done! Mark Sanchez looked sharper than he had in some time, the WRs were getting open (especially rookie Stephen Hill, who picked up 2 touchdowns), the defence was strong (Cro grabbed a pick-6), and special teams did their bit too (Kerley returned a punt for a TD). Apart from taking the foot off the gas as the game went on, it was a great win for New York, surprising a lot of people in the media.
Week 2? Well that couldn't have been more different. After a solid 1st quarter, the defence struggled to handle anything the Pittsburgh Steelers threw at them, & on offence barely a pass was completed, although for my money that's on the WRs having a huge case of the dropsies. Stupid penalties were given up repeatedly by the defense, Landry being a big culprit, and of course Ben Roethlisberger took advantage of that. As a fan it was a relief when the game ended! Next up are division rivals Miami, who also sit with a 1-1 record, not gonna be easy, but our injury situation should be better (Revis & Keller back)
Next? The rookie battle at Quarterback that everyone was talking about before Tebow went to NY. The top 2 picks of this years NFL draft, Andrew Luck & Robert Griffin III, are going to have very different seasons. Luck was picked by the Colts, the team with the worst record last season & in the process of rebuilding the team. Griffin was picked by the Redskins, a decent all round team looking to make that next step forward.
From what I've seen of Luck over the past 2 weeks of highlights he seems comfortable in the Indianapolis set-up, but just needs a bit more quality around him before he will be leading the Colts to their first playoffs since Peyton left! They fell to a tough Bears side in week 1, but were able to squeeze out a 23-20 victory over the Vikings this past weekend. As i said earlier, the first few weeks will be tough to really read into, but Luck will be in for a long season i feel, in a way though i hope he proves me wrong!
As for RGIII, well he had as tough as test as Luck in week 1, if not even harder as the Skins took on the New Orleans Saints (who in the offseason had the whole "bounty" scandal). To be honest though, Washington didn't need to worry as they made the Saints look like the team with the rookie quarterback! Griffin was accurate, calm, precise, consistent, and had a few good rushing attempts too! Basically that game was his time to show the league what he could do, and he grabbed that chance with both hands. Week 2 was pretty much more of the same performance wise, but just couldn't get the same result as Washington fell to the St Louis Rams 31-28. RGIII didn't have a bad game, and as the season progresses i can't wait to see how both he and Luck do.
Finally I learned that although there's still chinks in the armour after a season out, Peyton Manning can get the job done. Week 1 Manning & the Broncos took on Pittsburgh. Now the Steelers did what they could to eat up the clock & keep the ball away from Manning, it seemed to be working for a bit, but not for long. Peyton went back to his old no huddle offence used so effectively when he was in Indy, & although it wasn't perfect Manning looked surprisingly good, leading Denver on 3 consecutive scoring drives as they beat the Steelers. Week 2 was where we saw Manning display that he isn't quite what he used to be. Denver had to take on a decent Falcons side, and had to face an uphill struggle early as Manning was intercepted 3 times in just the first quarter! The Broncos got back into the game behind Peytons leadership, but still ended up walking away with a loss. My thoughts though are that although Manning isn't at his best, he is still very much a threat to defences across the league & will lead the Broncos to their fair share of victories this season.
Plenty more went on over these two opening weeks of the NFL season, but those were the things that probably stood out for me the most. Well that, and the Patriots losing to Arizona AT HOME in week 2! No doubt about it, this will be one hell of an NFL season!
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Sunday, 12 August 2012
Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Thursday, 26 July 2012
Friday, 13 July 2012
Friday the 13th, a day of perceived bad luck, maybe that’s why the people behind the Ryman Isthmian league chose this date to unleash the upcoming seasons fixtures onto the teams and fans? Anyway, the day of fixtures being released is an exciting one for teams and fans alike, both looking to see who they open the season against, who they will take on to end the season, and of course when the local derbies will be fought! I say fought, I mean played, but some derbies can see emotions run high both on and off the pitch, as I am sure you all know!
So as a Concord Rangers fan my attention was on the release of the Ryman Isthmian Premier fixtures released at midday. This year we’ve got 6 new teams to face, 2 promoted from the Ryman South (Bognor Regis and Whitehawk), 2 from the Ryman North (Leiston and Enfield Town), and 2 relegated from the Conference South (Hampton & Richmond Borough and Thurrock). We meet a newly promoted team on the first day of the season as Bognor Regis come to the Aspect Arena, what a welcome to the Ryman Premier eh? That was my first priority, to see who our first opponents would be when the season begins on August 18th. Next was the final game of the season, as you want to be able to go out on a high, especially if you’re at home. Well after ending last season with a loss away to Wealdstone, this year we’ll be looking to end with a win at home to newly promoted Leiston.
For the Concord fans, and those of our neighbouring side down the road at Park Lane, the local derby fixtures would be high on the list of games to look out for. In both previous seasons where Concord and Canvey have met, the games have been scheduled to take place on Boxing Day and Easter Monday (however the first seasons Boxing Day game was moved due to the weather). To be honest I don’t think either club would have been too surprised when they saw the fixture list earlier, as once again the two Canvey Island clubs will go head to head on right after Christmas and on Easter.
There are two long old road trips to be had during the season, with over 100 miles to get to both Lowestoft and Bognor Regis. The visit to Lowestoft will be the second game of the season on Tuesday 21st August, never a pleasant journey to make on a Tuesday evening after work! Bognor however will be on Saturday 2nd March, which for the fans (and more than likely the team too) will mean a bit of a weekend away, with a chance to unwind after the game in the “resort” that is Bognor Regis (can anyone say Butlins?). The away trip to Lewes last year reportedly produced a lot of unwinding, especially as it was a couple of weeks before Christmas and spirits were high! February 9th will see the lads make that trip again, maybe a calmer atmosphere this time around?
Anyway, now to round up the new guys in the league: Whitehawk (who won the Ryman South) will visit Thames Road on the 24th November; Enfield Town come to the Aspect on March 23rd; Thurrock do the same on February 23rd and Hampton & Richmond Borough make the trip to the island on October 6th. Now all the fixtures I’ve mentioned are of course subject to change for one reason or another, the weather can play a part as we’ve seen in previous years, and there is also the small matter of the cup competitions. Last year saw Concord reach the semi-finals of the Essex Senior Cup, and who knows, another cup run may lay ahead. With fixtures already announced for the 1st Qualifying rounds of the FA Cup & FA Trophy, victories could switch things around very quickly.
To confirm those cup fixtures, in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying round Concord Rangers will make the trip to Kettering Town FC on Saturday 29th September. Now Kettering Town have had plenty of off-field issues over the past couple of seasons, but they are still a solid side and will provide a worthy challenge to the Beachboys. The 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup is slightly more vague, as there are 3 different teams that Concord could face at home on September 8th.
The full fixture list for the season can be found on the Concord Rangers website, but I wanted to highlight some that stood out for me and that I’ll be looking forward to over the coming months. After the past 2 seasons following Concord Rangers quite closely, I am looking forward to another successful season in the Ryman Premier, it will be a tough year without a shadow of a doubt, however there are achievable goals for the club out there. Finish above the noisy neighbours, finish higher than last year, make the playoffs, even make promotion, all are possible with the squad & football family that we have down at Thames Road. Whether we actually manage any of them, well only time will tell, one thing is for sure, non-league football is one hell of an experience and I cannot wait for the season to get underway.
Monday, 9 July 2012
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Blogs, something i tend to do whenever the feeling hits, which generally is every few weeks or so! anyone who wishes to read this stuff on a regular basis, well i suggest following me on twitter (@Bulljet) as that is just a mini version of these blogs really! Anyway, last time i was typing away here, it was talking about what a day i had at Wembley for West Hams playoff victory. So you can see, regularity is not my strong point with these!
Plenty seems to be going on lately, and it just makes you think that you need to get off your arse and do something about it. Take for example my home life, mum's partner has moved in, and no question he has made the whole place more miserable. Mum doesn't seem to see it, but its petty and winds us up the wrong way. In the space of a week, he pissed off all 3 of us, well to be honest it was even less than that! Of course this has led to my mum getting left out, as we all stick to ourselves even more now. Anyway the point is that its woken me and Ben up, we know we need to start getting a move on, quite literally actually! We both earn decent wages, and need to look at how much a mortgage can get for us.
All that waffle for one little point at the end, i know i can go on a bit in these things! Other than that, work is getting busier and busier, more test events and preparations for the Olympics going on, which just means more people are worrying and causing hassle! I've said it before and I'll say it again, the sooner the Olympics are done, the better!
That would normally lead me on to some stuff about sport, but as the main seasons i follow are all out at the moment, there ain't much to say about it. Of course there has been the European Championships, but i think anyone who has watched it would know its not worth talking about!
This past weekend i was back in Blackpool for the 3rd time in as many years playing Darts in the Railsport Games. It was a heavy weekend, a lot of drinking was done, and a lot of laughs were had. But to be honest the details are best kept to those that were there! What happens in Blackpool, stays in Blackpool :-)
That was just a quick catch up of things, ideas have been flooding in today as to what to write about, so don't be surprised if another load of waffle appears here over the next day or two, got some whisky bits to jot down soon too! I know, i can sense the anticipation! Thanks for reading if you've managed this far!
Thursday, 31 May 2012
Its been well over a week, but i thought it was about time i got the experience down in a blog. Wembley Stadium, the home of English football, and for 90 odd minutes on Saturday 19th May, home to the dreams of 40,000 West Ham fans.
First, some background, this time last year the Hammers had been relegated from the Premier League after a dismal season, optimism wasn't great, but after a new gaffer was appointed in Big Sam & signings were made, we were one of the favourites for automatic promotion when May arrived this year. Obviously that wasn't to be, and the playoffs beckoned. After a 5-0 aggregate demolition of Cardiff, the first date at Wembley for West Ham was made since the League Cup final loss in 1981.
Now clearly i wasn't there in 1981, and i didn't get to Cardiff on our 3 recent appearances there, so i was hoping for a chance to experience what would obviously be a rare day for the club at the national stadium. Not being a season ticket holder or member worked against me though and i took it as a given i had failed to get a ticket. But a lifeline presented itself in the shape of a Facebook message from Mark, who i know online through his sister Adie (who i also met online, there's a pattern to my life here). Well Mark came through with a spare ticket, and i became i giggling little schoolkid at the prospect of going to Wembley to see West Ham!
The day arrived, and it started as it should of, with breakfast down kid local cafe at 8am! I had seen on Twitter that the Globe pub at Baker Street would be a meeting place for drinks before the game, so i promptly arrived at opening time (10am). Match tickets had to be shown to enter, but thanks to some sweettalking, i was in along with some fellow Twitter Hammers. Our group grew as the morning went on, and the atmosphere became electric at times. Every tourist bus that came past the pub was treated to renditions of Bubbles, or Stick ya blue flag up your arse. So polite eh!
Mark arrived around midday with my ticket, prompting much relief from myself! And after another drink it was time for the train journey to Wembley! The walk down Wembley way alongside so many Hammers was an experience all in itself, felt chills as the big arch approaches! Still a bit early for the game though, so we found a bit of greenery outside an old office block & sunk a few tins whilst catching up with more Hammers :-)
Then it really began, getting into the stadium and finding my seat, getting ready to see the teams come out, and singing Bubbles at the top of my voice. 40,000 Hammers were in our end of the stadium, and the noise was simply amazing. I can't remember every detail of the game, but i know it was tense! A quality goal from Cole sent us into jubilant screams & cheers, easing some fears and nerves!
The second half started with a gut punch as Blackpool equalised, and that led to a very tough end to the game. Both teams had chances, and honestly Blackpool were unlucky not to make the most of them. It was to be a Claret & Blue day though, as with 3 minutes left Vaz Te smashed in a rebound from Coles shot to give us the lead. Emotions were running high now, we were jumping around, screaming, cheering, and the kid in front of me was in tears of joy! Didn't take long for me to join him to be honest, as the final whistle went i had tears in my eyes, for the achievement of the club, for being there, and for a dearly missed friend who would have loved to have been a part of that moment.
After the presentation, the journey home began. I didn't care how long it took, i had a smile on my face and nobody could take that away from me. It had been West Hams first day at the new Wembley, and i had the honour and pleasure of being a part of it! A day that no Hammer there will ever forget, now bring on the Premiership!
Sunday, 6 May 2012
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
What can i say, i seem to be getting a bit slack with blogs lately, i wish i could say it was because i am busy, but i recently had 8 days off work so i can't really use that excuse! Plenty has been going on though, and i thought it time to share that with your good selves!
We'll get the boring bit out of the way first, work! With less than 100 days till the London Olympics everything is go at the moment, which in a way is great as there's no dull moments, but it can get a bit much at times. I've said it before & I'll say it again, sooner the Olympics are over the better! One bonus though is the focus on my dept has improved our conditions, we've got support, & a pay rise coming too!
I started spending some of the upcoming cash recently, as previously mentioned i had 8 days off work starting Easter Monday. Now that day saw the 4th Canvey Island non-league derby take place. Now although Canvey beat Concord for the first time, it was a good day & it was a great laugh in the bar afterwards drinking & chatting to the players & fans of both clubs. Speaking of Concord, our form has slipped a bit lately, but this weekend is the final game of the season, and it promises to be a great game followed by a top notch presentation evening! Depending on the events of that day, it might require a blog all to itself!
Back to my recent leave, and i had the pleasure of catching up with a couple of good friends. First the ex, still remaining friends which to me is a good thing. Had a decent meal & got updated on various goings on with family & work. Then i played a bit of snooker (and won) with an old school friend. She won 1 frame but i walked away overall winner which was what mattered! Partook in a couple of alcoholic beverages too which i will blame for losing a frame! Also did the whole tourist thing in London for a day or two with another old friend, which i really enjoyed. I say it every time but living near London you take it for granted and you don't tend to appreciate what we've got on our doorstep until you really take the time to look at it!
Honestly though, either in or out of work, i am pretty happy with how life is going at the moment, ain't got any major complaints and am enjoying everything that comes my way!
I am going to leave it there for now, mainly because i want to go into detail on West Ham, Concord, the Bulls & Jets, but that's another blog to be filled. Thanks for reading if you've made it this far!
Saturday, 31 March 2012
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